What’s your definition of risk?

If someone asked me if I was a risk-taker by nature, I would say absolutely not. Hell no. I don’t take risks! I’m sensible, logical, practical, and I want an easy life.

Except, if I look at the choices I’ve made, I don’t think it would be right to say, categorically, that I’m not a risk-taker. And the thing I’m about to do next? Well, that is one big-ass risk.

But what is a risk, anyway? The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as:

A situation involving exposure to danger’

and

The possibility that something unpleasant or unwelcome will happen‘.

If I think about how I would define a risk, it would simply be:

Stepping out my comfort zone.

You know, that zone where you feel safe and secure. Where everything is familiar. Where, if you step out of that bubble, you’re faced with the unknown. A place where you can’t feel safe because you don’t have your bearings. A place where you can’t feel secure because you’ve been uprooted. A place that isn’t familiar because you’ve never been there before.

But let me ask you this. How did you find your comfort zone in the first place?

You weren’t born into it. You found your way there through a series of decisions. Many of those decisions will have been decisions you’d never made before. Does that make them risks? Some would argue yes (ahem, me). Doesn’t every decision affecting your life have an element of risk attached? Of taking you from where you are to where you’re going?

You can never be sure of the consequences.

I struggle with the concept of the comfort zone. I know I have one, and I know I like it (clue is in the name) but I also know I want to push myself out of it and into a new one. A better one. And that alone suggests that a comfort zone can only be comfortable for so long. Like a bed.

I remember buying the bed for my flat almost half a decade ago – good lord – and I’d narrowed it down to two. The lady said to me, “pick the one you would most like to crawl into when you get home from work and you’re really tired“. I kept running from one to the other, trying to decide. Eventually, I settled on one. Squishy, luxurious, ever-so-dream-inducing. We’re still together. It’s served me well, but it’s developed a few little lumps (I couldn’t afford memory foam, ok), and you can tell that even the bed is getting tired. In another few years I’ll probably be able to feel the springs.

Something that was once so wonderfully comfortable, after a little while and a little wear and tear, loses its comfort. Comfort becomes adequacy. Adequacy becomes discomfort. 

When you really think about it, how comfortable is your comfort zone? What’s keeping you in it?

And if you pushed yourself into something new, something which initially makes you feel small, scared, intimidated, vulnerable or <insert negative here>, could you completely rejuvenate the comfort you experience?

I guess that all depends on your definition of comfort.

This ‘thing’ I’m doing next. It terrifies me. It’s the opposite of comfortable. My comfort zone is on another flipping planet. But it’s the comfort I believe I can find as a result of taking a risk that spurs me on.

And if I let the fear of change stop me, I’d regret it more than I regret just eating half a tub of Haagen-Dazs. Which is a lot.

So tell me, what’s your definition of risk?

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I’m in NoFit State for aerial skills

Bianco Nofit State circus Cardiff

As I write this, the morning after the night before, my hands have not entirely recovered from the rope burn. Bruises are starting to form on my feet and the bottom of my legs. Don’t worry, not the cause of anything sinister. As part of my campaign for change this year I, perhaps foolishly and definitely impulsively, signed up for an 8 week aerial skills class at the NoFit State circus in Cardiff.

I first stumbled across this circus a few months ago when they were performing their show Bianco in a big silver top right in the heart of my adopted city. I can’t remember actually going to a circus before, maybe I did as a child, but I read a book called The Night Circus last year and adored it. So when Bianco was on, I was desperate to experience it. And what an experience it was. It was like stepping into another world. Mesmerizing and beautiful, I watched the performers put their souls into the show, making their bodies do incredible abnormal things, and enchanting the crowd as they did so. I went home blown away and giddy by what I had seen.

When I was on a Googleing frenzy a few weeks ago I discovered that NoFit State were running classes in a variety of skills for total beginners. Me, in fervent fantasy of flying, whipped the credit card out there and then for the aerial skills class. I imagined myself flipping from one flying trapeze to another, twirling my way round a hoop, wrapping myself up in silks mid-air, and thought yes, this one’s for me.

When watching a show, you obviously appreciate that the circus performers have trained really hard to be able to perform to such an amazing standard, and you understand that a serious amount of core strength and agility is required to be able to do the things they do, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I realised quite how much. And that’s by literally just pricking my finger on the top of the iceberg.

Turning up on my own with the typical worries that every other person in the class would have gone with a friend, I was surprised at how many people were there. After a decent warm up we were split into groups and told that the word ‘can’t’ wasn’t in our trainer’s vocabulary. Uh oh.

My first task was the rope. A simple ‘Classic’ climb. Hmm, simple for koalas yes. But after a few attempts I just about grasped the basics, even if my poor little size fives were suffering for it. We learnt a second ‘Russian’ climb, an upside down straddle, and eventually a foot-lock, which I didn’t quite manage. For me the most difficult part was merely holding myself up. When I’m on that rope I feel like I am the weight of a blue whale, and my arms are just too weak to keep me there for long enough. Perhaps a sign that I shouldn’t have given up crossfit…

Towards the end of the session I moved on to the trapeze, which was slightly less painful on the tootsies. The main challenge was preventing the trapeze from wobbling about too much. We made a couple of shapes from sitting and standing positions and at one point my arms just decided to fail me and I performed what one trainer described as an ‘epic dismount’. By which she meant definitely not epic.

It’s fair to say that I have an entirely new, and utmost, respect for circus performers.

After the class my hands ached so much I almost had to use both of them to put the car into reverse. When I got home Olly asked if I enjoyed myself. I did, but I hate that feeling of not being very good at something. I’ve always been competitive, especially against myself, and when I was younger I was able to do pretty much whatever I put my mind to. But this journey I’m on at the moment is all about putting myself out there, stepping outside the comfort zone, doing something new. If I don’t like it, it doesn’t matter. If I’m rubbish at it, at least I had fun trying. Just because you’re scared of the idea of something, or you don’t know what you’re letting yourself in for, do it anyway. If you don’t, are you really living?

Fingers crossed (I actually just tried and it hurts) I can see an improvement in my skills next week, and the week after that. I’ll sure as hell turn up with a positive attitude every time.

10 reasons to be happy summer is over

Sunset through corn

The summer is special.  Being in the great warm outdoors is something I couldn’t live without.  Bright evening bike rides, golden hour strolls, or just sitting on a bench somewhere watching the world go by, summer makes me feel as if there is life to live once work has finished for the day.  And at the weekend, the world is your oyster.

But we have to be honest with ourselves.  The sun has set on summertime.  Soon the darkness will eat everything up before I even step foot out of the office in the evenings, and that is always a sad time of year.  It limits my options.  It also encourages me to simply go home and curl up in the warm comfort of home, which is not acceptable every day of the week; I am not a mouse.  But instead of feeling miserable that it’s almost ‘that time of year’ again, I have put together 10 reasons to be happy that summer is officially out, and autumn and winter are in.

1. Hot bubble baths

Baths are one of my favourite things in the whole world, but they aren’t really acceptable in the summer.  Why would you want to make yourself hotter and sweatier when it’s 20+ degrees outside?  Ok, so that doesn’t happen a huge amount in the UK.  But when that temperature drops, so do my clothes.  An evening spent in a piping hot bath full of Radox bubbles and lavender oil is number 1 on my ‘How to Relax’ list.  It’s also the place where I do a lot of reading and make pretty much all of my phone calls.

2. Cuddles in bed

No longer will Olly be able to get away with the excuse ‘I’m too hot’ when I climb into bed and transform myself into a limpet or demand to be spooned.

3. Scented candles

Despite their energy saving abilities, lighting candles just isn’t the done during summertime.  But with dusk creeping up on us earlier and earlier, fire up those babies and fill your home with the scent of whatever takes your fancy.  I’m a fan of musky and floral (but not overly sweet) scents and I have just purchased this wild jasmine scented candle tin.  Has anyone tried it?

4. Considerably better TV

Common sense often escapes me.  I mentioned to Olly the other day that TV had been rubbish recently and I couldn’t understand why.  He kindly clarified that as most people are out enjoying the pleasant late evenings, a good gritty drama just wouldn’t get the audience.   It seems so obvious now…  So, I am looking forward to what the BBC and ITV have in store over the next few months.  I sincerely hope the second series of Broadchurch will be as good as the first.

5. Guilt-free lie-ins

The guilt which I experience from lying in and effectively ‘wasting away’ my mornings decreases during the colder months.  If there’s no sun to lap up outside, there’s no harm in rotting away under the duvet, right?

6. Soups and slow cooker meals

Thick soups and hearty stews are just plain wrong in hot weather.  The word ‘stew’ is practically defined as ‘something you eat when it is cold and miserable outside’.

7. Full length pyjamas

I am one of those people who changes out of normal clothes the moment I walk in the front door.  Off with you restrictive black chinos!  Get back in your drawer denim jeans!  In the earlier evening, I opt for joggers which are fluffy and cosy on the inside.  But later on, the full length pyjamas come out to play.  Ahh is there anything more comfortable?  I’ve dropped a hint to Olly that I want a new pair of luxury winter pyjamas, but he just laughs at the words ‘luxury’ and ‘pyjamas’ together.  Which leads me to believe that my current ones make me look like a pauper.

8. The chance of snow

The white stuff is pretty darn beautiful.  I don’t want to drive in it, and I would rather not be out in it for too long because my fingers and lips turn blue, but I could sure look at it all day long.

9. Colour changes

My favourite thing about Autumn is the colour of the leaves turning to a rusty, golden brown and peppering the ground.  And they are still a lot of fun to kick around.

10.  Countdown to Christmas

It’s ages off, and I can’t stand seeing all the paraphernalia in the shops when it’s only September, but Christmas has a habit of creeping up on you.  Now that I live quite far away from where I was brought up, and where my parents still live, the excitement of Christmas is all about family.  And food, obviously.

Is there anything you would add to the list?